Archives For Christopher Penczak

Our society often equates popularity with worth or with power. The status system created by celebrity culture is not something new, and it exists in many societies. One of the unfortunate side effects of living in a modern day celebrity culture is that it often separates people from the humanity of one another. We see this with celebrities within popular mainstream culture, and we also experience this in the much smaller segments of our own interconnected communities.

Dancing the maypole (courtesy EarthSpirit Community)

(Courtesy EarthSpirit Community)

Modern Pagan communities have their own definitions for popularity status. There are even varying categories that distinguish where people fall on the continuum.Author, Blogger, Ritualist, High Priest(ess), Artist, Musician, Academic or Leader. All of these are not only functional roles within the Pagan and modern Polytheist world, but they are also titles that come with expectations, a bit of status, and some relative privilege. The common use of the internet within Paganism makes it that much easier to know who people are, who is doing what, and where people will be at any given time. Articles go viral in our community, and it can be one of the most effective ways that someone’s name gets recognition.

What does this carry-over of culture mean in our community though? How does this kind of celebrity culture challenge true connection within such a small, overlapping grouping of individuals?

This past weekend several thousand Pagans, Heathens and Polytheists convened once again to the west coast for the annual PantheaCon convention. It is a time where people get to meet, learn and experience the teaching and the works of artists and leaders from around the country. This year’s con embodied many of the people, activities and things that most of us go there to experience. Author and Priest Devin Hunter explained this well in saying:

Pantheacon 2016 was powerful, drama free, and really fun. We were a bunch of Pagans and Witches getting together to share our work and support our common goals as modern mystics. My tradition, Black Rose, hosted a suite all weekend and we presented a deep ritual working on Friday night (The Sacrament of Hecate Triodia). I got to discuss some of the amazing things the Temple Of Witchcraft (Salem,NH) has been doing with their founders, meet fellow authors from all over the country, and host two amazing parties. Only at Pantheacon can you manage to do all of this! This was my fifth consecutive Pantheacon and my favorite!

This was very much like my own experience. It was a wonderful time of meeting, engaging and sharing with others that I would not normally have the opportunity to do so with. But in all the business of the weekend, I continued to think about how the many ways in which we support each other also serve as barriers to equity in voices and genuine relationships with those who are in different places on the continuum. Do we really get to know one another, or are we just familiar with what each person does, or what they stand for?

Lack of genuine connection with the people behind the names can lead to misconceptions about who they are and project unattainable expectations on these leaders, authors and artists. Social media and the workings of the internet make it easier to know a face or a name, but not the person behind those things.

Since I find that I have had to confront some misconceptions about myself, I thought it would be interesting to reach out to several different people within the community to see what misconceptions they often face from others.

Christopher Penczak

Christopher Penczak

Probably the biggest misconception about me and pretty much many of my peers is misconceptions of motivations and just because you are deemed successful what success looks like and how it translates into everyday life. When someone takes the leap to be an author, teacher, healing facilitator, reader, artist or pagan minister, it’s because we feel a call to it from a deep power. We feel a great love for the teachings, the gods and the community and often against our personal preferences and desires, feel guided to act upon it and do.

While there are great rewards and blessing, and I treasure my life and opportunities, there are also hardships.No one really enters this world to make easy money. I could make more in a regular office job with health insurance and vacation time. I’ve gotten a lot of freedom on one hand but miss out on time with friends and family and a lot of the regular security I crave. When folks are off and free I’m often working. Travel is fun but also gets tough when you are away a few times a month. It’s only through the many hats that I wear that I can make a full time vocation and it takes a lot of planning and juggling. When I switched from my first publisher to a larger publisher, I was accused of “selling out” and someone made comment that I bought a house with the advance for that book. The advance could barely cover a month’s rent. And my first publisher rejected the book while my new publisher was interested in a five book series with CDs. But those are critiques I hear directly and indirectly often about well know teachers and authors. – Christopher Penczak

Niki Whiting

Niki Whiting

If I am well known, then I assume it is because of co-founding and putting on Many Gods West. I think people assume that I am the sole person behind this event and that isn’t true! There are others working behind the scenes, but Syren Nagakyrie is a strong force keeping us on track. I have no desire to be the “voice” of polytheism – I don’t think that is even possible! I just want to encourage and support our communities, and by extension find the support and camaraderie I need as well.” – Niki Whiting

Well, I think that the biggest misconception wouldn’t be about me (people don’t really know me personally that much) but about our company. A lot of folks think that we are a) a coven/circle/commune-based community or b) a huge corporate behemoth. We are actually a small family business run entirely by me, my husband, and our kids. – Anne Newkirk Niven

Beverley Smith

Beverley Smith

I’d say that some of those who have known me as a long-time Druid priestess are surprised by my passion for social activism. They are somewhat taken aback to see that I’m very involved in civil and human rights causes. They are sometimes put off by the idea that I actually care. It always surprises and irritates me that many people prefer their spirituality easy and watered down: Witchcraft Lite. And because that’s how they roll, that’s how they expect me to approach my spirituality also.

I don’t believe that we separate our spiritual lives from other aspects of our reality. I don’t feel that sitting in sacred space, smudging, anointing myself with oils, meditating or participating in rituals are any more uplifting or inherently sacred than bringing awareness of injustice, standing in solidarity with the marginalized, and protesting in the street. My sacred space is the space I’m holding as we chant “no justice, no peace”. Nothing can be more sacred to me than to fight for a fellow human’s rights and stand up to evil together.

I am a Pagan. I am a priestess. I am a child, a daughter of the Earth and social justice is my creed. And yes, I am unabashedly, fearlessly, and unapologetically Black.- Beverley Smith

Devin Hunter

Devin Hunter

I think the largest misconception about me is that I am competitive. Competition has it’s time and place in life but I think being a comrade is much more important. I don’t view other practitioners, teachers, or leaders as competition, I view them as members of a big team of people who are on a journey with both shared and separate paths. I think those that know me know that I will bend over backwards to help when I can, especially when it comes to professional advice. I am a pretty simple guy, if you’re my friend I’m always there, if you’re someone I have never met from the internet, chances are I am not going to give you the same degree of energy as those I am close with. That doesn’t mean I view you as competition, I just don’t know you that well. – Devin Hunter

I’m an initiated Witch and a former First Officer of CoG. I am Pagan theurgist. I am a Thelemite, a member of Ordo Templi Orientis and ordained priestess of Ecclesia Gnostica Catholica. The connections between these systems make them compatible; I’ve dubbed this connection “Western Traditional Magic.” However the increasing tendency to pigeonhole practitioners leads people to know my work in only one silo. Witches don’t know my work in O.T.O., Thelemites have no idea I am a Witch. So it’s hard to talk to them about the whole of my work and how the several parts feed each other.

Brandy Williams

Brandy Williams

I’m also seeing the effects of ageism. “In your day that was true, but now…” We associate people with the era of their early adulthood and reject their continuing contributions at right about my age. The Pagan community has just as marked a tendency as the dominant culture to devalue accumulated experience. The local Suquamish tell me “we honor our elders” while Pagans tell me “we don’t need elders.” I find myself longing to be as honored by my own people as my neighbors are by theirs.

It’s especially frustrating to be dismissed as a “second wave feminist.” I’m quite proud that I was active in feminist community as a very young woman and that reforms I fought for have made women’s lives better for decades. Third wave feminism has taught me the importance of intersectionality, especially that that feminist progress depends on confronting racism. Presently the development of feminist thought is framed as generational antagonism –  third wave feminists are “daughters” of the second wave, fourth wave their “granddaughters”, rejecting the feminism of their “mothers” to form their own ideas. This framework hampers our ability to accumulate power over time by building on each other’s work. I don’t see the “waves” as generational but as a sequential development of critical thought structures. I am a feminist who will never stop learning! – Brandy Williams

If we had a chance to get to know one another without the filters of status, or the preconceived notions that we have about our various positions, what would we know about one another? What would we want others to know about us? Here are some answers from those in the community.

Anne Newkirk Niven

Anne Newkirk Niven

One thing for people to know about me as a person? I guess that I care deeply about our many communities, and I don’t have any kind of delusions of grandeur. Honestly, I don’t think of myself as a “well-known personality” at all. But I hope that the work we do is well-known, and, occasionally at least, well-regarded. – Anne Niven

In truth, despite my hard practiced ability to teach and lead ritual in front of groups, I’m a homebody and an introvert. I find big groups overwhelming. I like smaller quiet socialization. I can be social and in groups due to my musical performance and magickal training, but it takes great effort, so if I seem less friendly at the end of the night at an event it’s usually because I’m at the end of my energetic reserves and want some quiet alone time. People are often shocked about that but it’s true.” – Christopher Penczak

Lasara Firefox Allen

Lasara Firefox Allen

I have invisible illnesses. I don’t always have the ability to interact gracefully. Sometimes I just need to be able to chill out. I don’t want people to take it personally if I don’t have the bandwidth for an interaction. Something that will make me warm to someone is when they ask for consent for an interaction. Maybe even making sure there’s space to sit down if we are going to talk for more than a few minutes.

At PantheaCon this year my body was being very cranky and demanding. I had limited time out in the Con because I had to take so much downtime to maintain myself. That made it so that my time was very precious to me. I had to teach and take care of my other duties, and still fit in time with my family, and try to see some friends. Honestly I ended up missing out on most friend time, which bummed me out. – Lasara Firefox Allen

It is most important to me to be kind. My feminist and social justice work is about advocating for increased kindness. To be kind is not to be weak but to be fiercely honest and strong. When people talk to me I want them to feel that they are heard and respected. I celebrate the courage and success of the people around me. It makes me happiest to hear people say “you would be proud of me!” – Brandy Williams

I am really dedicated to helping people find their power, whatever it is. The drive to help others is behind everything that I do.” – Devin Hunter

My older brother is a dancer and grew up attending his classes, recitals, and competitions. I took classes as well and I think in a different version of my life I would have continued. Sometimes at night I think about the possible realities where I am the dancer, perfumer, lawyer, or biochemist; and reflect on how those experiences continue to inform my work.- Lou Florez

Lou Florez, invokes the ancestors, during the interfaith service. [photo credit Clark Sullivan]

Lou Florez invokes the ancestors during the interfaith service. [Photo Credit Clark Sullivan]

We operate in a world where profile pictures are one of our primary ways of identifying who we virtually rub shoulders with in the world. Likewise, we often see one another through the small lenses of roles, jobs and titles instead of human beings with much more in common than not. Our ability to decrease the multidimensional layers of humanity into a two-sided depiction of a person fits right into the fame game of modern society but does not allow for us to sustain meaningful connections.

When people see me in the hallways of a convention or read my article online, they may not know that I get anxious in front of crowds or when I publish an article, and that I am very driven but also very sensitive.

The persona of a person is often seen before the personality; sometimes a name travels further than we imagine. But our ability to see the person behind the name or the title might be the most magical thing we can do for one another.

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This column was made possible by the generous support of the members of Come As You Are (CAYA) Coven, an eclectic, open, drop-in Pagan community in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Terry Pratchett [Photo Credit: Myrmi, cc lic. via Wikimedia ]

Terry Pratchett [Photo Credit: Myrmi, cc lic. via Wikimedia ]

So much universe, and so little time” – Sir Terry Pratchett

It was announced yesterday that beloved fantasy author, Sir Terry Pratchett, had died from complications due to Alzheimer’s Disease. Throughout his 44 year writing career, Sir Terry has touched the minds, spirits and imaginations of people all over the globe, becoming one of the U.K.’s most well-read authors and is, according to the BBC, second only to JK Rowling.

His work has become of particular importance to Pagans and Heathens, who have found within it a unique expression of their own practice and spirituality. Ashley Mortimer of the Doreen Valiente Foundation said:

Terry Pratchett has done several great services to the pagan community and the true Craft of the Wica: He helped the wider community see us as more include-able and accepted by poking good-spirited, perceptive, knowledgeable and downright genuine fun at us through his hilarious characters  – you know you are widely recognised when the writer trusts the general reader to be familiar enough with you to “get” the in-jokes about you. He also painted witches in a positive light with his witch characters always being the heroines and “good guys” of his stories and, best of all, he reminded us in the pagan and witchcraft community that, by seeing ourselves warmly through the eyes of others, we should never take ourselves too seriously.

Sir Terry Pratchett was born Terence David John Pratchett in Beaconsfield, Buckinghamshire. As a child, he was fond of astronomy but was unable to qualify for such studies and, eventually, turned his imagination to science fiction novels and fantasy. He devoured both American and British classics. At the age of 13, Sir Terry published his very first story, called “The Hades Business,” in a school newspaper.

As an adult, he pursued a career in journalism. While working for the Bucks Free Press, Sir Terry wrote and published a number of short stories under the pseudonym “Uncle Jim.” However, it wasn’t until 1971 that he published his first book titled The Carpet People. He followed that up with The Dark Side of the Sun in 1976 and Strata in 1981.

The_Colour_of_Magic_(cover_art)Sir Terry is best known for his Discworld series, which he began in 1983 with the publication of the first book The Color of Magic. This series became so successful that, in 1987, he left his job at Central Electricity Generating Board to become a full time author. The rest, as they say, is history.*

In the early 1990s, as Sir Terry’s popularity reached new heights, the Pagan Federation decided to host its very first indoor conference. Having connected with that community, Sir Terry supported the effort. Vivianne and Chris Crowley recalled, “His talk left us with tears rolling down our faces – tears of mirth. He judged with humour our stunning array of witches competing for the ‘Best Magrat’ competition, impressed by the enthusiasm that we Pagans showed for bringing his characters to life. Evenly-handed, and ahead of his time, he awarded the prizes to two women and a man.”

The Crowleys added that Sir Terry was “officially agnostic” but “was one of the most Pagan-friendly of authors.They said, “He had enough familiarity with the Pagan community to create the kind of jokes that resonate with Pagans everywhere.” Over the years, the Crowleys got to know him better through the fantasy author circuit and found “his humour warmed up in the best possible way those long cold hours hanging around back stage between giving talks.”

More recently, in 2010, the Crowleys joined in Sir Terry’s “lobbying [efforts] at the Conservative Party Conference for the legalisation of assisted suicide.” They noted that his eloquence, sincerity, and authenticity won over many of the legislators.

Sir Terry was also known to have attended other U.K. Pagan events. Author and teacher Christopher Penczak remembers meeting him at Witchfest. He said, “I had not read his books yet, so I really didn’t appreciate the moment.” But Penczak remembers the author as being very friendly and nice to all the presenters at the event.

Penczak eventually did read the novels and said, “I feel like his stories gave me more insight about Witchcraft, the spirit of magick, coven dynamics, responsibility, ego, dealing with the public, humor, and the role of service of the Witch more than most of my occult books. His insights were brilliant.”

2012 [© Luigi Novi / Wikimedia Commons]

2012 [© Luigi Novi / Wikimedia Commons]

Throughout the 1990s and into the 2000s, Sir Terry continued to write as many as 3 novels a year. The Discworld series eventually contained 41 books and a number of related short stories. According to his website, he has sold over 70 million books, translated into 37 languages.

Along with receiving many literary awards, Sir Terry was appointed ‘Officer of the Order of the British Empire’ for his work. In 2008, he was knighted with a sword that he himself forged. As noted by The Independent, Sir Terry added what he called magical touches to the metal and, then, kept it secret until the event. He was worried about the authorities and was quoted as saying, “It annoys me that knights aren’t allowed to carry their swords…That would be knife crime.”

In 2007, Sir Terry was diagnosed with early-stage Alzheimer’s Disease after what was assumed to be a stroke. The Crowleys said, “Terry handled his illness with enormous dignity and courage.” According to the BBC, it was his writing that kept his spirits up and kept him going as his health declined. At least five of the Discworld books were written and published after the diagnoses.

Sir Terry’s death was announced yesterday via Twitter in a style that recalled his work.

 
The capital letters recall the way Death, the character, speaks in his novels.
 


It was reported that he died in his sleep with his cat and his family by his side.

Since the announcement, many Pagans and Heathens have joined the millions of other fans who are now mourning the loss of a great writer and kindred spirit. Ashley Mortimer of the Doreen Valiente Foundation said, “Terry Pratchett proved that the principles of mirth and reverence are perfect partners in paganism, the Craft and indeed wider human culture. His untimely passing is a great sadness to all of us.”

Christopher Penczak said, “I’m very saddened by our loss of Terry Pratchett … While not being a Witchcraft teacher, he was certainly a teacher of Witchcraft, at least of a healthy Witchcraft culture, including the many things I think are important to keep in mind in our practices and community.”

The Crowleys said, “Terry was a true magician, not in the sense of being a practitioner of the Art Magickal, but in his ability to conjure up new worlds, to weave a spell with his words, and beyond the wonderful humour of his writing, to evoke profound ideas that struck chords with the postmodern religious imagination.”

In memory of Sir Terry, people have been posting their favorite quotes.The Doreen Valiente Foundation offered this one:

Most witches don’t believe in gods. They know that the gods exist, of course. They even deal with them occasionally. But they don’t believe in them. They know them too well. It would be like believing in the postman.

The Crowleys shared this:

It was a place where witches met. 
Tonight a fire gleamed on the very crest of the hill. Dark figures moved in the flickering light. 
The moon coasted across a lacework of clouds. 
Finally a tall, pointy-hatted figure said, `You mean everyone brought potato salad?

Finally, there is this one:

If you don’t turn your life into a story, you just become a part of someone else’s story

What is remembered, lives!

*   *   *

*Note: Biographical data taken from multiple sources, including www.famousauthors.org.

btw2015logo-tshirt-3_med-2HUNT VALLEY, MARYLAND –When at any single Pagan conference with a robust lineup of workshops, panels, and rituals, a participant might find it difficult to choose what to attend and what to pass on. When two conferences join forces, those decisions become, at very least, four times as difficult to make. Such was the experience for 3-400 people who attended the combined Sacred Space and Between the Worlds conference in Maryland this past weekend.

These two events became one this year through a combination of cooperation and astrology. Sacred Space is an annual conference which is held around this time. Between the Worlds — not to be confused with an identically-named Midwest spiritual event — is scheduled astrologically, and like Sacred Space, takes place on the mid-Atlantic seaboard. This year, the stars aligned so that the two conferences would be in competition for attendees, speakers, and even organizers, as they have long had at least one board member in common. Instead of cannibalizing resources, the decision was made to combine the two into one whopper of an experience.

Between the Worlds won’t happen again until 2020, and it’s unlikely to ever overlap with Sacred Space again. The events have some common elements, which made the mashup manageable. Both have highly selective processes for choosing teachers, and require the content to be intermediate to advanced. Between the Worlds has handpicked teachers, while Sacred Space combines invited headliners with a proposal process designed to highlight local talent for a wider audience.

A harsh winter storm delayed many arrivals on Thursday. However, with only a few minor scheduling adjustments, the conference kept humming along. Friday and Saturday, the two full days, started with a plenary session during which a panel discussed a single topic before the bulk of the attendees. Friday’s topic was “alliances with the spirit world.” On Saturday a different panel discussed the nurturing spiritual communities.

Each panel was nearly two hours long, with a combination of debate, insight, and wit that highlighted the different perspectives of the panelists. Listening to Archdruid Kirk Thomas and respected author Diana Paxson debate why Odin seems intent on recruiting followers captured the Friday audience’s attention. Is he gathering fighters for Ragnarok, or trying to forestall it?

Ivo Dominguez, Jr, Michael Smith, and James Welch at the gala

The next morning’s discussion on community was equally as engaging. Dolores Ashcroft-Nowicki explained that for all the dysfunction in American Pagan communities, they are far more evolved than what she is familiar with in England, where, “we Brits keep a stiff upper lip,” and don’t see much value in community at all. After identifying herself as the oldest person there, Ashcroft-Nowicki said, “I’m here to learn.”

Just as the days began with a single big session, they ended with the same, but those endings couldn’t have been more different. According to Sacred Space organizer Gwendolyn Reece, both Friday’s main ritual and Saturday’s gala were largely Between the Worlds in origin. Sacred Space does not have a large, main ritual at all, and of the gala, she remarked, “Between the Worlds does that better,” in part, because it costs extra to attend, allowing for live entertainment and plenty of food.

The entertainment came in the form of Tuatha Dea, a band that set the tone by musically calling the quarters and raising the energy in the room to a pitch that was joyous, but not so intense as to be overwhelming. In addition to a deep book of original and lively tunes, this band was able to perform everything from “Whiskey in the Jar” to “White Rabbit” with panache and flair. Their work complemented a silent auction to benefit the New Alexandrian Library, which included an astounding variety of items ranging from original art to gift baskets themed around popular Pagan holidays to ritual jewelry of exquisite beauty.

The main ritual, held Friday night, was a very different kind of energy; one that highlighted the strengths of the Assembly of the Sacred Wheel. Attendees were encouraged to participate in a preparatory class, during which chants were taught and the layout of the ritual was explained through guided meditation.

The ritual itself began on time, characteristic of an organizational decision to reject “Pagan standard time” out of hand, with the doors being sealed against latecomers. The theme was one of personal transformation as expressed by the “Witch’s Pyramid.” It was built on the astrological significance of the event, which was scheduled during the seventh of a rare series of Pluto-Uranus squares that represent the deep transformation of Pluto coming together with the explosive change represented by Uranus. While much time was spent laying those foundations, when the energy did start flowing, the call to move beyond one’s comfort zone and act for change in the world was unmistakable. By the time the seals upon the ritual gates were opened, this energy could be seen burning in many an eye.

Altars at Sacred Space.

Altars at Sacred Space.

But the choices beyond those big sessions are always difficult. Preparing for possession or oracular work with Diana Paxson? The sorcerer’s tongue or journeying to the phosphorous grove with Christopher Penczak? Deepening understanding of the witch’s pyramid with Ashcroft-Nowicki, or Ivo Dominguez, Jr?

Monika Lonely Coyote tackled the difficult question of differentiating mental illness and spiritual experience in one session, and how to act as a psychopomp for a dying individual in another. There were classes on hexes, breaking curses, alchemy of breath and alchemy of sex. Kirk Thomas offered a class on sacred gifts, which discussed reciprocity with the gods and its relationship to hospitality in ancient cultures ranging from the Greek to the Irish. Byron Ballard’s “Hillfolks Hoodoo” couldn’t have been more different than T. Thorn Coyle’s idea of “Practical Magic.”  However, each teacher brought deep wisdom and displayed a mastery of the craft. Dorothy Morrison offered a class on money magic that was both practical and earthy. In short, when all the choices are beyond “Grounding 101,” every decision is a difficult one to make, an opportunity cost by which one piece of knowledge is gained, and another left behind.

In that way, this idea is similar to a point that Morrison made about magic, and why she does not include “an it harm none” in her spells. She noted that all magic comes at a price.

“If you work a spell to get a job interview, someone else’s resume fell into the trash,” Morrison said. Requiring that a spell harm no one takes away its power, she observed; better to understand that no magic is without consequence. Or, as Coyle put it at one point, “You have to own it.” That’s the kind of lesson taught at this conference: very little in the world is black and white, and the burden of the adept who walks in sacred space is to take responsibility for the many gradations between the worlds.

On Dec. 4, Crystal Blanton, a Wild Hunt columnist, author, Priestess and activist, issued a challenge to the Pagan community, as a whole, after noticing “the silence of the Pagan organizations in light of recent unrest.” She said, “This is an opportunity to stand up and support the people of color within the Pagan community … Tonight, I am saying to the Pagan community, I see you. The question is, do you SEE us?”

 

That single Facebook post was a catalyst for an avalanche of response from individuals, small groups and organizations across the nation. Over the past six days nearly 50 public statements and articles have appeared in blogs, websites and Facebook status updates, making this, quite possibly, a historic moment of unprecedented solidarity. Moreover, the responses aren’t limited to the so-called Pagan community. Responses have come from Heathen organizations and Polytheists, as well as a large variety of Pagans from a diversity of traditions.

“The response of many organizations and leaders over the last week has shown something we haven’t really seen before in our community; a willingness to speak up and speak out about the needs of Black people and ethnic minorities,” Crystal said, expressing her surprise.

Due to the number of reactions, it is impossible to share in detail each and every statement or article. It is even more difficult to encapsulate the grief, anger, frustrations, power, hope and even confusion expressed in many of these statements. A full list is included at the bottom. Of course, it is important to also remember that this list is not comprehensive. More statements and discussions are published every day.

Before Blanton issued her call-to-action, several Pagans had already made public statements on the #blacklivesmatter national protest campaign On Nov. 25, T.Thorn Coyle, who wrote an “Open Letter to White America.” In that statement, Coyle called for empathy and compassion, saying, “I pray that we remember: We are responsible for one another’s well-being.” On Nov. 29, Peter Dybing posted a photo of himself holding up sign that read, “White Privliege is real. Stay calm and listen.” Like Thorn, he was speaking to white Americans, asking them to stay silent and listen to those oppressed.

[Courtesy Photo]

Following Dybing’s lead, author Christopher Penczak also posted a photo of himself holding the same sign. He issued a heartfelt statement, saying:

I have tried to take the advice of a friend who said one of the best things we could do, particularly those of us in a place of privilege, is to listen …  I know sometimes I don’t want to, but its so important, particularly at this time. So I thank Peter Dybing for asking me and others to let people know that listening while keeping calm in uncomfortable situations is absolutely necessary at this time. Blessed be.

These statements came shortly after the Ferguson grand jury decision. However, after that announcement was made, other similar incidents made headlines, including the choking death of Eric Garner in New York City and the shooting death of Tamir Rice in Ohio. At that point, the tone of the public conversation changed from simply “stay silent” to “act and acknowledge.” Additionally, the messages, which were originally aimed predominately at white Pagans, also changed direction. This wake-up, so to speak, was expressed by Jenya T. Beachy, who wrote in a blog post, “I’ve fallen prey to the ‘nothing is right to say so say nothing’ theme.”

Crystal2014

Crystal Blanton [Courtesy Photo]

After Blanton’s facebook post, most of the first responses came from the blogging world. Similar to Beachy, the writers opened up discussions of the issues, as each of them personally grappled with the reality of the national crisis. Not all of these posts were specifically in response to Blanton’s challenge, but all deal with the situation head-on. Polytheist blogger Galina Krasskova  discusses her obligation, and that of other white citizens, to speak out. Drawing from her religious practice, she wrote that we have an “ancestral obligation to take a stand against racism.”

Other bloggers and writers who responded include Shauna Aura Knight, Jason Mankey, Anomalous Thracian, Sarah Sadie, John Beckett, Kathy Nance, Rhyd Wildermuth, Peter Dybing and Tim Titus. Patheos Pagan Channel has posted a static link list of all posts that reflect on Ferguson and Police Brutality.

Some of the topics raised within these varied articles include white privliege (e.g., Tim Titus and Anomalous Thracian), how it all relates to Paganism (e.g., Jason Mankey and Shauna Aura Knight), and the need for decisive action (e.g., Peter Dybing). Some bloggers, like Tom Swiss at The Zen Pagan, also incorporate a discussion of spirituality. Swiss wrote, “If you’re not outraged by all this, you’re not paying attention.” He goes on to say, “Buddhism realizes the place of wrath, and assigns significant deities to its proper function — the “wrathful deities.”

In addition to bloggers, there was a flood of solidarity statements from individuals and leaders (e.g., Ivo Dominguez, Patrick McCollum, Starhawk); from small groups (e.g., CAYA coven, Circle of Ancestral Magic, Bone and Briar, Vanic Conspiracy) and from national organizations (e.g., Covenant of Unitarian Universalist Pagans, Circle Sanctuary, Covenant of the Goddess, Ár nDraíocht Fein, Aquarian Tabernacle Church, Cherry Hill SeminaryThe Pantheon Foundation and Heathens Against Racism).

Some of these statements were specifically meant as calls-to-action in support of the public protests around the nation. The Coru Cathubodua Priesthood used powerful language saying, in part:

We are angry … We want justice … We who are the priesthood and war band dedicated to the Morrigan stand and take our place in the streets as allies to justice.”

While they used strong language in their call to action, the Priesthood also said, “We have hope.”

Similar to the Priesthood, Free Cascadia Witchcamp organizers used potent language saying, “We will not be complicit through silence.” They added, “We grieve the irretrievable loss of integrity for all those who participate in, and uphold structural opppression, and we grieve the tragedy of those impacted by it.”

Not everyone used forceful words in their calls for action. The Covenant of Unitarian Universalist Pagans (CUUPS) asked its membership and friends to “act as partners in the work to create more justice in our broader communities.” They added, “None of us can be truly safe or free when some lives have value and others don’t.” Other similar calls to action, both strongly worded or not, came from Bone & Briar in Pennsylvania, Solar Cross in California, CAYA coven, Patrick McCollum, Cherry Hill Seminary, and others.

Some goups focused their words on recognition and awareness. These statements were in direct response to Blanton’s statement “Do you see us?” In these public expressions, organizations and groups acknowledged bearing witness to injustice and are essentially saying, “We see you.”

This was well-expressed on Polytheist.com, where representatives stated, “We see the harm. We see the fear and the hatred. We see the injustice … Together, we stand for something better.” Circle of Ancestral Magic, Blanton’s own coven, wrote, “We say this most of all to the people most affected by these atrocities. We see you. We hear you, and honor your lived experiences.” Other similar treatments were made by groups such as Vanic Conspiracy and Immanion Press.

Rather than make a comment, Circle Santuary chose a different route. It opened up its regular Tuesday night Circle podcast to host a round-table discussion on racial equality. In retrospect, Rev. Selena Fox said:

Circle Sanctuary and the Lady Liberty League are committed to working for a world with freedom, equality, liberty and justice for all, and where people can live in harmony with one another and with the greater circle of nature of which we are all a part.  It is our hope that this solution-focused Pagan community conversation can enhance awareness, inspire considerate communications and encourage effective, collaborative actions to help manifest racial equality

In a statement for Ár nDraíocht Fein (ADF), Rev. Kirk Thomas ended on a spiritual note saying, “We must all look deeply inside ourselves to root out prejudices we have been raised with that linger in the dark. Only then can injustice end. Only then may we all live in peace.”

Several organizations, due to internal processes and the distance between its board members, were unable to issue their statements in time for publication, but told The Wild Hunt that they were currently working on words. These organizations included The Assembly of the Sacred Wheel, The Officers of Avalon and The Troth.

Lou Florez

Lou Florez

In response to all this activity Lou Florez, a spiritual counselor, rootworker, Orisha priest, told The Wild Hunt,

I wish I could say that these acts of violence, racism, aggression, and brutality on black bodies were rare, but unfortunately, they are not. These experiences are the lived reality for a vast majority of People of Color. While it is very touching to see the outpouring of support, discussion and commitments, I see this as just the beginning of a first step. As witches, Pagans, magicians, conjurers, and clergy we are mandated to transform the world as we transform ourselves. It’s time to awaken to the ramifications and reality of power, privilege and oppression in our circles, and communities.

Turning back to Blanton, we asked what she thought of this flurry of reaction to her Facebook comment, as well as the opening up of conversations and the calls to action. She said, with a hopeful tone, “I am so humbled to see such clear, fast and strong responses and it renews my hope that we might be able to actually do something together with that energy in our community.”

*   *   *

The following is a list of the public (only) statements, posts and articles that were issued since Dec. 4 and referenced above. This is not an exhaustive list and more statements will undoubtedly surface over the days to come.

Coru Cathubodu

Bone and Briar

Free Cascadia Witch Camp

Immanion Press

The Family of the Forge in the Forest

The Firefly House

Shauna Aura Knight

Hexenfest and Pandemonaeon

Vanic Conspiracy

Heathens United Against Racism

Polytheist.com

The Troth

CAYA Coven

Solar Cross

Anomalous Thracian

Starhawk

Pantheon

ADF

Circle Sanctuary

CUUPS

Peter Dybing

T. Thorn Coyle

Jason Mankey

Courtney Weber

Patrick McCollum

Officers of Avalon

Jenya T. Beachy

The Assembly of the Sacred Wheel

Covenant of the Goddess

Christopher Penczak

Tea & Chanting Sangha/Dharma Pagans

Lykeia

Galina Krasskova

Cherry Hill Seminary

Ivo Dominguez Jr.

Tim Titus

Lydia Crabtree

John Beckett

Rhyd Wildermuth

Kathy Nance

Tom Swiss

Circle of Ancestral Magic

Sarah Sadie

Aquarian Tabernacle Church

The Pantheon Foundation

 

[On a weekly basis, we bring you the news and issues that affect Pagan and Heathen communities around the world. If you value our work, please consider donating to our fall fund drive today. Bringing you important news and stories, like the one below, is what we love to do. Your support makes it possible for us to continue. Thank you very much.]

 

LC BookSeventeen years after the release of her last book, Laurie Cabot has returned to the world of publishing with a new title called Laurie Cabot’s Book of Spells and Enchantments. Produced by Copper Cauldron Publishing, her new book details the “nuts and bolts” of spell creation, including some of the recipes, rituals and secrets contained within her own family grimoire. In the book, Cabot also discusses the place of magic in life, a Witch’s apothecary, divine power and her own spell-making tips for both the beginner and lifetime practitioner.

Laurie Cabot is arguably one of the most well-known witches in contemporary American culture, outside of Pagan circles. In the 1970s, Governor Michael Dukakis honored her with the title “The Official Witch of Salem,” a name she accepted proudly.

Throughout much of her magical life, Cabot has owned and operated witchcraft stores in the historic New England town of Salem. Through those stores, she was able to do what she loved most: sharing the beauty, reality and power of Witchcraft. In 1973, Cabot opened her very first store, called The Witch Shoppe, and, as it turned out, it was one of the very first stores of its kind in the United States. At one point, she also owned the well-known Crow Haven Corner and, more recently, The Cat, Crow and Crown, which was eventually renamed The Official Witch Shoppe.

In 2012, at the age of 79 years, Cabot announced that she was finally closing the doors of the Shoppe. She explained to The Boston Globe, “The Witch City has dipped to the point where a brick-and-mortar store is no longer sustainable.” Despite the downward turn in business at its physical location, the store has maintained an online presence to this day.

During the 1990s, Cabot wrote and published four books including, The Power of the Witch (1989), Love Magic (1992), Celebrate the Earth (1994) and The Witch in Every Woman (1997). Writing books became another way for her to share the magic and joy of Witchcraft with new audiences and new seekers. However, after publication of the last book, she turned her attention away from writing to focus on other pursuits and didn’t publish again … until now.

We talked with Laurie Cabot about her new book, the current state of Witchcraft in today’s society and her future projects. At 81 years of age, she was enthusiastic to answer our questions and share her thoughts. Her passion for teaching and for the art of Witchcraft was very evident in her voice as she answered the questions. Please note that the conversation was not recorded and, therefore, will not be presented in a traditional interview format. 

After a 17 year hiatus, why suddenly return to print?

Laurie Cabot [Courtesy of P. Cabot]

Laurie Cabot [Courtesy of P. Cabot]

When answering this question, Cabot was very candid. She explained that writing books had become very cumbersome. She is not a computer user and, therefore, her books were all written long-hand with paper and pen in the old-fashion way. The task was enormous and, in 1997, she didn’t want to devote the time and energy into producing another one. Then, several years ago, she finally agreed to produce a new spell book because, as she said, “I had a wonderful person who could type as fast as I could talk.”

That person was Christopher Penczak. In the forward of the book he says:

…on a Beltane evening, while discussing the state of publishing, I suggested that she release a spell book because she loved sharing the majick. She agreed, but asked for my help in organizing it, along with her daughter Penny, and thus the seeds of the book you hold now in your hands were planted.

Cabot added that Penczak having his own publishing company, Copper Cauldron Publishing, “made it easy.” After the process was complete, she said, “I could have done three volumes because we have collected and created spells for over 50 years. But I wanted to do something that was easily understandable to all people.” The result of that collaborative work is this new book – a “how to” guide to spell making born from sixty years of Cabot magic.

The book is aimed at a general readership; not only Witches or magical practitioners. Why?

Cabot said, “There’s a little witch in everyone.” She believes that the science of magic is “what is vital” and, as such, “can be used by anyone.” She added, “Quantum physics tells us what we are doing is real.”

In the book’s introduction, Cabot says:

You don’t have to be a Witch to borrow majick. Some think you do, but I say absolutely not. Anyone can use majick. We teach the science and art of Witchcraft separate from religion, so you can be a scientific Witch. You can be an artful Witch too. And you do not have to practice the religion at all.

She went on to describe how she dervived at such a science-focused understanding of Witchcraft. She said that it was the “finding of science” within the spiritual experience that became so important to her development. As a child she had many psychic experiences, after which her father would always say, “There has to be a science behind it.” She said that it was those conversations that “led [her] in search of that.”

Laurie Cabot [Courtesy of P. Cabot]

Laurie Cabot [Courtesy of P. Cabot]

Why the “j” in majick?

In the book, Cabot uses the term “majick” rather than magic or the popular magick. When asked what the spelling difference meant to her, she simply said that a “j” is used in place of a “g” to identify her particular system of Witchcraft with its focus on science. She has been using this spelling for over a decade.

What major observations have you made concerning the changes, beneficial or otherwise, in the practice of Witchcraft today as compared to past decades? 

When answering this question, Cabot focused on the retail experience, which has dominated much of her “majical” life. When she opened The Witch Shoppe in 1973, there were no witches anywhere. She said that the store was the only place where people could find a witch. Now, there are stores everywhere.

She said that, unfortunately, today, “it seems that people open stores to become rich.” She said, “You don’t become rich with one store. It may pay for the mortgage but you won’t be rich.”

Cabot also observed that the focus of modern Witchcraft stores has changed. In opening any store, her intent was always to “help people understand that Witchcraft was real.” She wanted to teach and share her passion. All her products, including incenses, spells, potions and oils, were handmade. She said, “I know the ingredients. I know how to make them real.” The store was an experience for the buyer that she created from her experience as a Witch.

Now, most metaphysical shops get their products from vendors. She laments this system saying, “the spells may not work. They may not have anything to do with the right energy.” This commercialization of the Witchcraft industry saddens her, and she added that people just seem to be “jumping on the band-wagon.” However, Cabot did acknowledge that the increase in stores has significantly helped with the sharing of magical practices, making them more widely accepted.

Cabot with Chris Levasseur outside Enchantment in Salem [Courtesy of P. Cabot]

Cabot with Chris Levasseur outside Enchantment in Salem [Courtesy of P. Cabot]

As awareness has grown over the years, Cabot has noticed a recent influx in the number of international students coming to her classes. She said that, just last week, 6 Brazilians flew to Salem in order to attended her Witchcraft 101 class at Salem’s magickal store, Enchanted. In addition, her online classes have been attracting an international audience. She said, “They want to learn the science,” which she thinks is “wonderful.”

What would you say is the most important legacy or message that you would like to leave for future generations, Pagans or not, as the Official Witch of Salem?

Cabot said, “I would like everyone to know that magic is real.” She said that there has been “so much propaganda.” She explained that, as children, we all know in our hearts that magic exists but we are told by adults that it is just imaginary. But it does.

She also wants more people to accept and learn the scientific aspects of magic. She said, “I want it to be used to better the world.” Then she added, “Isn’t that what the world needs right now?  A little magic.”

One would be hard pressed to argue that point.

Now that the book is finished and due to be released in digital and paperback formats later this month, what other projects are on the horizon?

Along with her teaching at Enchanted, Cabot has several new projects in the works. She enthusiastically shared that she is working on her memoirs. Although she does not have a time frame for it’s completion and release, it will be published by Copper Cauldron Publishing with the help of Christopher Penczak.

Cabot is also developing a Tarot Deck, one that she hopes to release in the spring of 2015. She said that it does not have a name yet, but the deck will be focused, as one might expect, on scientific and the numeric spirit in the occult system.

As the conversation ended, Cabot added, “I’m using my time carefully now. I want to make sure that I leave something for people to gain knowledge. I don’t know everything. There are people that know far more.” But what Laurie Cabot does know, she wants to share in ways that will foster a better and deeper understanding of the self, the outside world and of the art of Witchcraft.

There are lots of articles and essays of interest to modern Pagans out there, sometimes more than our team can write about in-depth in any given week. So The Wild Hunt must unleash the hounds in order to round them all up.

The Temple of Flux, 2010 (Rebecca Anders, Jessica Hobbs, Peter Kimelman and Crew)

The Temple of Flux, 2010 (Rebecca Anders, Jessica Hobbs, Peter Kimelman and Crew)

  • HuffPo Religion looks at 10 years of Burning Man temples, and quote scholar and friend-of-The Wild Hunt Lee Gilmore, author of “Theater in a Crowded Fire: Ritual and Spirituality at Burning Man.” Quote: “Burning Man is that wild, uproarious desert party that hits the Nevada desert every August. But to call it a party alone is to miss the critical spiritual dimension that grounds much of the festivities. This spiritual dimension is perhaps best characterized by the temple artists and architects build every year on the playa. The tradition began in 2000 with artists David Best and Jack Haye’s Temple of Mind. The temple took on greater significance after one of Best’s friends passed away weeks before the festival, setting the tone for what would become an annual space of memorial and contemplation on the playa, or what author and religion professor Lee Gilmore calls the ‘sacred heart of Black Rock City.’ (Black Rock City or BRC refers to the temporary town that Burning Man becomes every year.)”
  • Religion News Service analyzes the trend of the millennial generation abandoning formal religious affiliation in large numbers. Quote: “Any replacement for religious membership will have to match the moral power of religious narratives. It is always hard to keep going with civic and political work; persistence is a lot easier if you see yourself connected to a permanent community with a prophetic vision of the future. Religions also appeal to deep moral commitments. While you do not have to be religious to be moral, being a good citizen requires commitments to other people — and perhaps to nature — as intrinsically valuable. Those commitments do not come from science or reason. In fact, science suggests that people are dramatically unequal and that nature is fully exploitable. So responsible people develop ‘faith-based’ commitments. Secular equivalents must be at least as powerful.”
  • The U.S. Army has approved “Humanist” as a religious preference for members within their ranks. Quote: “Lt. Col. Sunset R. Belinsky, an Army spokeswoman, said Tuesday (April 22) that the “preference code for humanist” became effective April 12 for all members of the Army. In practical terms, the change means that humanists could face fewer hurdles in trying to organize within the ranks; military brass would have better information to aid in planning a deceased soldier’s funeral; and it could lay the groundwork for eventually adding humanist chaplains. The change comes against a backdrop of persistent claims from atheists and other nonbelievers that the military is dominated by a Christian culture that is often hostile to unbelief.” At the ACLU, Major Ray Bradley says that Army Humanists are “no longer invisible.” Pagan faiths are still engaged in this process, working to expand beyond the handful of options currently available (which includes “Wicca” and “The Troth”).
  • Fr. Dwight Longenecker writes about why myth matters for the Intercollegiate Review. Quote: “Against all odds, through popular culture, myth is more potent and omnipresent in modern society than anyone could have imagined. Why? Because in an increasingly global society, myth is a universal language. Luke Skywalker, Frodo Baggins, Spiderman and Batman transcend cultural divides. Mythic heroes in movies communicate universal values in their fight against evil. In a culture where the abstract theories of academics are out of touch and meaningless, stories communicate more effectively and more universally. Furthermore, in an increasingly irreligious age, mythical movies and literature carry the truths that religion had traditionally conveyed.” Despite Fr. Longenecker’s theologically conservative brand of Catholicism, I think there are some interesting points raised here that some of my readers might appreciate.
  • Center-left American think tank the Brookings Institution has published a new report on economic justice and the future of “religious progressives.” Quote: “Religious voices will remain indispensable to movements on behalf of the poor, the marginalized, and middle-class Americans. The authors point to specific opportunities the progressive religious movement can act on.” Michelle Boorstein at The Washington Post notes that demographic shifts might bring about a bright future for left-leaning religious organizations. Quote: “The report sees perhaps a bright future for the religious left. One reason is demographics. A far bigger share of younger Americans call themselves religious progressives (34 percent of those ages 18 to 33) than religious conservatives (16 percent of the same group). Another is the model offered by the civil rights movement, which the report says ‘interwove religious and civic themes’. . . and was so successful because it was so ecumenical. We may be at such a moment, the report argues.”
Photo: VICE / Phil Clarke Hill

Photo: VICE / Phil Clarke Hill

  • VICE says that Santeria is growing in visibility and popularity in Cuba now policies regarding religion in that country have been relaxed. Quote: “The religion owes its continued existence over the centuries to the prevalence of the oral tradition, with believers passing on, preserving, and nurturing its secrets through countless generations. Today, Santeria has emerged from the shadows of a Cuban society now at liberty to practice religion, and is witnessing not only an increase of acceptance but also of popularity.”
  • The Economist explains how European politics are different than American politics, that there isn’t a “religious right” per se, but there are a number of “identity politics” camps that must be appeased if you want to win elections. Quote: “It is hard for European politicians to build a career by claiming the traditionalist ground; they would generally lose more votes than they would gain. What does exist in Europe is the politics of identity, including religious identity. In this area Europe’s parties and politicians always think carefully about the signals they send and getting it right or wrong has consequences. That’s a helpful way to see David Cameron’s re-embrace of the Anglican church.”
  • Barbara Falconer Newhall at The Huffington Post reviews Patricia Monaghan’s posthumous work, the new edition of her “Encyclopedia of Goddesses and Heroines.” Quote: “I wish I had known Patricia Monaghan. She died a year and a half ago after a rich life as a poet, author, goddess scholar, and pioneer and mentor in the contemporary women’s spirituality movement. She was an academic, yes, but also a hands-on kind of woman. According to her husband, she was as concerned about the temperature of her root cellar as she was with the depth of her research. That research is stunningly thorough. I have in my hands the posthumously released revised edition of her Encyclopedia of Goddesses and Heroines. The first, very popular, edition was published in 1979. This beautiful, fat — in a good way — expanded version tells the stories of more than 1,000 ancient goddesses and heroines from such far-flung corners of the earth as Mongolia, Benin, Tierra del Fuego and Wisconsin.”
  • Jackson Free Press has an article focusing on Pagan author and teacher Chris Penczak. Quote: “While the Mississippi Legislature was polishing its Religious Freedom Restoration Act (which opponents say opens doors to legal discrimination for religious reasons), Christopher Penczak and other believers of a mostly misunderstood and reviled faith—Wicca—planned a workshop. Penczak, 40, is one of the founders of the Temple of Witchcraft in New Hampshire. From its humble roots as a magickal training and personal growth system, the temple has become a formal tradition of Witchcraft.”
  • The New York Times Magazine spotlights The Dark Mountain Project. Quote: “A man wearing a stag mask bounded into the clearing and shouted: ‘Come! Let’s play!’ The crowd broke up. Some headed for bed. A majority headed for the woods, to a makeshift stage that had been blocked off with hay bales and covered by an enormous nylon parachute. There they danced, sang, laughed, barked, growled, hooted, mooed, bleated and meowed, forming a kind of atavistic, improvisatory choir. Deep into the night, you could hear them from your tent, shifting every few minutes from sound to sound, animal to animal and mood to mood. […]  The Dark Mountain Project was founded in 2009. From the start, it has been difficult to pin down — even for its members. If you ask a representative of the Sierra Club to describe his organization, he will say that it promotes responsible use of the earth’s resources. When you ask Kingsnorth about Dark Mountain, he speaks of mourning, grief and despair. We are living, he says, through the ‘age of ecocide,’ and like a long-dazed widower, we are finally becoming sensible to the magnitude of our loss, which it is our duty to face.”

That’s it for now! Feel free to discuss any of these links in the comments, some of these we may expand into longer posts as needed.

Pagan Community Notes is a series focused on news originating from within the Pagan community. Reinforcing the idea that what happens to and within our organizations, groups, and events is news, and news-worthy. My hope is that more individuals, especially those working within Pagan organizations, get into the habit of sharing their news with the world. So let’s get started!

AncestorsCoverThe Temple of Witchcraft and Copper Cauldron Publishing have announced the publication of a new anthology title: Ancestors of the Craft: The Lives and Lessons of Our Magickal Elders. First copies of the book were made available at the Temple’s annual Yule ritual, and will soon be made available at Amazon.com. Retailers can order copies through Copper Cauldron Publishing. Quote: “Modern pagans are heirs to a rich confluence of traditions from numerous pioneers in the realms of Spirit who have passed beyond the Veil. Ancestors of the Craft honors these ancestors, some widely known, others obscure, but no less deserving. A wide range of authors have contributed looks at important figures and elders in the history of the modern Witchcraft and Neo-pagan movements, some four dozen in all […] Authors include Jimahl di Fiosa (Talk to Me), Storm Faerywolf (The Stars Within the Earth), Elizabeth Guerra (Stewart Farrar: Writer On A Broomstick), Raven Grimassi (The Cauldron of Memory, Old World Witchcraft), Galina Krasskova (Exploring the Northern Tradition), Deborah Lipp (The Elements of Ritual), Shani Oates (Tubelo’s Green Fire), Gede Parma (Spirited), Christopher Penczak (The Temple of Witchcraft, The Mighty Dead), Matthew Sawicki (Witch and Famous), Kala Trobe (The Witch’s Guide to Life), and many more.” Should be an interesting read!

Grey_School_of_Wizardry_-_crestThe Grey School of Wizardry has opened a virtual world campus incorporating the Second Life platform as a part of its online magickal education program. “The implementation of a virtual campus was driven by student feedback and demonstrates our commitment to provide an engaging, inspiring learning environment for the magickally-minded. It provides us with new ways to share our knowledge, and offers a more personal, interactive, and magical setting for our students,” said Stacey Aaran Sherwood, Campus Director at the Grey School of Wizardry. “This new program is supplementary and purely voluntary, and does not in any way alter the web-based system of instruction that our faculty and students are accustomed to using.” Students who elect to enroll in the optional program benefit from real-time interaction with participating teachers and fellow students.  The Grey School of Wizardry is a tax exempt organization, and was founded in 2004 by Oberon Zell, a founder of the Church of All Worlds. You can read the entire press release, here.

Stonehenge

Stonehenge

I’ve mentioned Stonehenge’s new visitors center a couple times now, looking at what it wants to transmit to visitors of the famous stone circle, and the pushback from some UK Pagans over their decision to display human remains. Now, Pagan musician Corwen Broch has visited the new center, and shares some reflections at his blog. Quote: “I personally am not opposed to the display and retention of human remains providing they are displayed sensitively. In fact I’d go so far as to say I am in favour of the display of human remains as I feel they can be a tangible link to the lives of our ancestors in a way nothing else can. All that said however the remains at Stonehenge are not displayed sensitively. They are in the same cases as antler picks and reconstructed arrows which seems to symbolically reduce them to the status of inanimate objects rather than what was once the remains of a thinking feeling human being. One person’s bones in particular are wired together and displayed upright fixed to a board in a way that made me viscerally uncomfortable. It is extremely saddening to me that English Heritage did not take a middle way with these remains and at least abide by HAD’s best practice guidelines. The current lack of sensitivity seems almost calculated to prolong the controversy and the protestations and plays into the hands of those most opposed to the display of human remains whilst making it difficult for those of us in favour of display to defend English Heritage.” Despite these concerns, Broch says the structure has “vastly improved” from its previous iteration, and has no concerns apart from the manner in which human remains are presented.

In Other Pagan Community News:

The Circle Sanctuary Winter Solstice Pageant

The Circle Sanctuary Winter Solstice Pageant

  • Solstice songs! T. Thorn Coyle has uploaded a new (free) song for the season, called “Invictus (Solstice)” to her Bandcamp page. Quote: “This is once again my Solstice gift to you. It started out a poem, but wanted to simplify into a song. Just me and GarageBand, baby. Pay what you will. All money supports Solar Cross temple and our justice work.” In other Solstice song news, Damh the Bard has a song up for you too!
  • Performer Lyra Hill, daughter of Anne Hill (you may know her through her work with Reclaiming), has been featured in the People 2013 issue of the Chicago Reader. Anne Hill says of her daughter that “Lyra’s exploration of dreams through art challenges me to keep looking for new ways to bring the power of dreams into waking life. I hope she inspires you, too.” 
  • Cherry Hill Seminary is seeking an artist in residence. Quote: “Cherry Hill Seminary, provider of distance education for Pagan ministry, seeks candidates for an Artist in Residence. Candidates working in any medium and who wish to be directly engaged for a period of two years in support of the CHS mission of distance education for leadership, ministry and personal growth in Pagan and other Nature-Based spiritualities may obtain full details or apply at this link.” Compensation? “Visibility,” promotion from CHS, and a quarterly feature in the official newsletter.

That’s all I have for now, have a great day!

Pagan Community Notes is a series focused on news originating from within the Pagan community. Reinforcing the idea that what happens to and within our organizations, groups, and events is news, and news-worthy. My hope is that more individuals, especially those working within Pagan organizations, get into the habit of sharing their news with the world. So let’s get started!

Patrick McCollum

Patrick McCollum

The Association of Correctional Food Service Affiliates (ACFSA) international conference in Reno Nevada is this week, and Pagan chaplain Patrick McCollum will be addressing them to give guidance about requests for special diets from Pagan inmates. Quote: “Rev. McCollum will share information about basic Pagan practices and beliefs, and the give guidance to the Association on how to accommodate religious diets for Pagans. In the past, Pagan traditions have not been considered legitimate religious practices in correctional facilities and as a result, Pagans have not been been afforded equal accommodation in this area. Many practicing Pagans are vegan or vegetarian, but are forced to eat meat while other mainstream faiths are offered alternatives. The ACFSA has decided to utilize Rev. McCollum’s expertise in this area to change prison policies worldwide to be more receptive to Pagan beliefs. This is a huge step forward toward equality for Pagans, and bodes well for a better future for all minority faiths.” According to McCollum, this is the first time that a Pagan has addressed this body. Here’s hoping this will lead to a better understanding of our diversity, and the valid needs of Pagan inmates. You can find all of my coverage of Patrick McCollum, here.

41SC-bWNDqL._SY346_Professor Ronald Hutton, author of “The Triumph of the Moon” and “Blood and Mistletoe,” has a new book coming out in November of this year in the UK ( and February of next year in the United States) from Yale University Press entitled  “Pagan Britain.” Quote: “Britain’s pagan past, with its astonishing number and variety of mysterious monuments, atmospheric sites, enigmatic artefacts, bloodthirsty legends and cryptic inscriptions, has always enthralled and perplexed us. Pagan Britain is a history of religious beliefs from the Old Stone Age to the coming of Christianity. This ambitious book integrates the latest evidence to survey our transformed – and transforming – understanding of early religious behaviour; and, also, the way in which that behaviour has been interpreted in recent times, as a mirror for modern dreams and fears. From the Palaeolithic era to the coming of Christianity and beyond, Hutton reveals the long development, rapid suppression, and enduring cultural significance of paganism. Woven into the chronological narrative are numerous case studies of sacred sites – both the well known Stonehenge, Avebury, Seahenge and Maiden Castle, and more unusual far-flung locations across the mainland and coastal islands. Celebrating the powerful challenge and stimulus offered to our imagination by relics of Britain’s deep past, this rich book reveals much about archaeological and historical endeavour and our modern quest to know.” Hutton was host of the recently aired documentary about Gerald Gardner entitled “Britain’s Wicca Man,” and was elected a Fellow of the British Academy last month.

Philip Carr-Gomm at the fracking protest.

Philip Carr-Gomm at the fracking protest.

The process of hydraulic fracturing to harvest natural gas, infamously known as “fracking,” isn’t only controversial in the United States. Fracking operations are underway in Britain, and several Pagans, including musician Damh the Bard, participated in a protest against a well in Balcombe, Sussex. Quote: “This afternoon’s visit is not a happy return to a childhood stamping ground, but rather a way of supporting brave people in their fight against the madness of greed. What can I do? Add myself to the numbers, add my voice by taking my bouzouki with me and playing Sons and Daughters (of Robin Hood) at the top of my voice!” Other Pagans of note at the protest were Druid leaders Philip and Stephanie Carr-Gomm. At his blog, Philip Carr-Gomm penned an open letter in opposition to fracking. Quote: “The same story is repeating itself with fracking. Although people like money, when the chips are down they don’t want their countryside ruined, their roads clogged with lorries, their water and air risking pollution. They want to protect their country – if necessary from the government who promised to be the ‘greenest ever’. Remember your party has 130-177,000 members, the National Trust has 3.8 million. People really care about the countryside.” You can watch a video of Damh the Bard performing at the Balcombe, Sussex protest, here.

In Other Pagan Community News: 

  • The annual Festival of The Dead in Salem, Massachusetts is coming up! That includes the official Salem Witches’ Halloween Ball, and presentations by authors and teachers like Christopher Penczak. Quote: “The Witches of Salem honor this time with Festival of the Dead, an annual event series that explores death’s macabre customs, heretical histories, and strange rituals. Presented by Salem Warlock Christian Day and hosted by the foremost authorities on the spirit world, Festival of the Dead beckons guests to step through the veil into a realm where spirits await.”
  • The fist issue of the Melbourne-based magazine The Green Man Quarterly is now out and available for order. Quote: “The Green Man Quarterly is a new project based in Melbourne, Australia that aims to present an in depth exploration of Pagan, Witchcraft and Occult issues. Our ambition is to produce an affordable, high quality resource that is able assist in the promotion and growth of our diverse community.”
  • Speaking of magazines, a Starwood 2013 themed issue of the venerable Green Egg has been released. A direct link to the free PDF is here. In the introduction, the editor has announced they they plan to finish scanning all the back issues of Green Egg, to make them available as a resource. Quote: “When all the issues are put up, hopefully by one year from now, if not sooner, I plan to send out a mass email mailing to university departments and teachers about a wonderful resource for them and for their students. And it’s free!”
  • Congratulations to the Covenant of The Goddess Facebook page on surpassing 15,000 “likes”! 
  • Pagan Pride Day season is fast approaching, and press releases from local events are starting to be sent out. Here’s one from Philadelphia Pagan Pride, being held August 31st. Quote: “Entry to the event is free, but we do request the donation of a canned food item or other provisions for our beneficiaries. This year, our beneficiaries are the food bank at the Mazzoni Center, Forgotten Cats, and In-Reach Heathen Prison Services.”
  • Speaking of Patrick McCollum, the issue of American Jails that he contributed an article to won an award for journalism! Quote: “The issue that Patrick wrote the featured title article: Keeping the Faith – Religious issues in Jail, just received the Apex Award for Journalism, the top award for a print magazine in 2013!” You can read the article he wrote, here.

That’s all I have for now, have a great day!

Pagan Community Notes is a series focused on news originating from within the Pagan community. Reinforcing the idea that what happens to and within our organizations, groups, and events is news, and news-worthy. My hope is that more individuals, especially those working within Pagan organizations, get into the habit of sharing their news with the world. So let’s get started!

Patrick McCollum and members of HAF with the resolution.

Patrick McCollum and members of HAF with the resolution.

On Monday in California a resolution introduced by Senate Majority Leader Ellen M. Corbett was unanimously adopted by the State Senate. SCR-32 designates October as Hindu American Awareness and Appreciation Month, and was backed by the Hindu American Foundation. Pagan chaplain and activist Patrick McCollum, who was honored by HAF in 2009 due to his work on behalf of minority religions, was invited to be a part of this moment, one that he called “historic.” McCollum added that “Pagans and Hindus have supported one another for equal rights and recognition and we stand together for a better world.” This is the first such resolution to honor American Hindus, and one of very few resolutions to honor a non-Christian minority faith in the United States. As State Senator Corbett says in her official statement, quote, “I am honored to represent constituents from many diverse backgrounds, including a significant number of Hindu Americans, California is home to a thriving community of over 370,000 Hindu Americans that enrich our state’s diversity and professional assets in fields as diverse as academia, science, technology, business, arts and literature.” You can see a picture of Rev. Patrick McCollum with Senate Majority Leader Corbett, here. Congratulations to our Hindu cousins!

COVR Award

COVR Award

The International New Age Trade Show (INATS) was held this past weekend, and the annual COVR (Coalition of Visionary Retailers) awards were handed out. Pagan and metaphysical publisher Llewellyn Worldwide took home four COVR awards, including a First Runner Up award (Wicca/Paganism category) for Rev. Mark Townsend’s “Jesus Through Pagan Eyes” (reviewed here). The big Pagan winner of the weekend was author Christopher Penczak, who took home First Place awards for “Buddha, Christ, Merlin: Three Wise Men for Our Age” and “The Gates of Witchcraft,” a Runner Up prize for “Feast of the Morrighan,” and two awards for his spell coins. Penczak said he was “humbled and grateful” for the recognition he received. You can read more about this year’s COVR nominees and winners here, here, and here. For an insiders perspective of INATS, and the future of the occult/metaphysical market, I found this blog post very interesting.  Congratulations to all the winners!

Adocentyn Research Library

Adocentyn Research Library

The Adocentyn Research Library in the San Francisco Bay Area of California, in the process of building what they hope will be “the premier Pagan research center in the Western US,” have reached a new milestone. According to Adocentyn board member and co-founder Donald H. Frew, their online catalogue has surpassed 4,500 volumes, with far more volumes on-site and in the process of being catalogued. Quote: “There are over 6000 volumes currently on-site (plus hundreds of periodicals) with another 5000+ coming (plus ephemera such as correspondence, notebooks, etc.). Cataloguing takes time, but we have 19 volunteers helping us move things along. We will be opening soon.” This is exciting progress for the library, and you can keep up with the latest announcements at their official Facebook page. As I’ve reported previously, Adocentyn is in preliminary talks with the New Alexandrian Library Project (currently under construction) and other institutions in forming a Pagan Libraries Organization so that they can share information, and offer inter-library loans.

Blue plaque ceremony.

Blue plaque ceremony.

Last week’s Summer Solstice saw the dedication of a commemorative blue plaque at the Brighton, UK home of Dorren Valiente, called by many the mother of modern religious Witchcraft (you can read my previous coverage of the plaque here). Druid leader Philip Carr-Gomm, who attended the ceremony, said that this was a historic moment for more than one reason. Quote: “This is a first for Wicca and Paganism but this was also a historic moment for another reason – it is apparently the first blue plaque to appear on a council block.” The Centre for Pagan Studies has posted a video of the unveiling which I’ve embedded below. You can see additional coverage of the event at The Argus, which has also posted a video from the ceremony. John Belham-Payne, who inherited the bulk of Valiente’s Pagan-oriented estate, says he plans to open a museum in Brighton. Quote: “I’ve been contacted by museum owners in Salem but Brighton is the only place for the collection.”

In Other Pagan Community News:

That’s all I have for now, have a great day!

A bright and ongoing success story in the Pagan community has been the utilization of crowd-funding sites like IndieGoGo and Kickstarter to collectively raise funds for important projects. Starhawk raised over $75,000 dollars to help fund a pitch-reel in order get a feature film based on her book “The Fifth Sacred Thing” made. Peter Dybing helped raise $30,000 dollars for Doctors Without Borders in the wake of the 2011 Japan earthquake and tsunami. Pagan singer-songwriter SJ Tucker was amazed when a Kickstarter campaign for Tricky Pixie’s European tour more than doubled their initial goal in a matter of hours (and kept on growing). In addition, several smaller initiatives have managed to collectively raise thousands for Pagan projects: The readers of The Wild Hunt funded the proposed budget of this site for a year, Chicago-based Pagan/magical performance troupe Terra Mysterium raised funds for their new show “The Alembic,”and the Goddess community funded a documentary film in honor of Merlin Stone.

Crowdfunding sites allow an easy mechanism for fundraising in communities that may have social networks and organizations, but not the robust money-raising infrastructure of already-established mainstream institutions. This is a place modern Paganism is in today, and more and more of us are turning to these sites as a solution to our “money problem.” There are hundreds of thousands of Pagans out there, millions around the world, and they desire to see our projects and initiatives advance just as much as any other faith community. So here are some Pagan Fundraising Initiatives that you might want to contribute to.

The Ancient Egyptian Daybook: Egyptologist Tamara Siuda, author of “The Ancient Egyptian Prayerbook,” has been involved with the Pagan community for years in a number of different roles. She’s probably best known as a pivotal figure in Kemetic Orthodoxy, and more recently, as a mambo in Haitian Vodou. When she announced that she was fundraising to produce an Ancient Egyptian Daybook through Kickstarter so that interested individuals could keep track of all those wonderful ancient Egyptian holidays, she quickly surpassed her initial goal of $3000, and is quickly creeping up on $9000.

My name is Tamara Siuda. I’m an Egyptologist. (Yes, I’ve even played one on TV.) I’ve been translating hieroglyphs, teaching, and writing about ancient Egyptians for two decades. A few years ago, I published The Ancient Egyptian Prayerbook. It includes translations of prayers, hymns, and magical incantations from Egypt’s pharaonic times. It also includes a very basic ancient calendar, because there wasn’t room for all my research. I’d like to give that calendar some more attention. With your help, I can publish The Ancient Egyptian Daybook. This Daybook will include all my research into ancient Egypt’s calendar. It will also include an optional blank perpetual calendar in a journal or planner format, so you can keep track of these holidays today, if you want!

With a little over a week left, she’s making plans for 10K, 20K, and 40K “stretch” goals, with various incentives. So if you want to jump on this project before the fundraising window closes, now’s the time. Wild Hunt columnist Stacey Lawless will be writing more about this fundraiser in her next column, which will also touch on her PantheaCon experiences. I think Pagans looking at how to do a successful crowdfunding initiative should study all the things that Tamara Siuda did right.

Commemorative Blue Plaque For Doreen Valiente: Doreen Valiente is rightly called the “mother of modern Witchcraft” by many, and her writings have had a huge shaping influence on religious Witchcraft as a whole. The Centre For Pagan Studies is currently raising funds to place the first in a series of commemorative blue plaques to honor Valiente and other key figures in modern Pagan history.

BluePlaqueNotBlank

“The first Blue Plaque is the Doreen Valiente Plaque. We have been working on this for a number of years with Brighton and Hove City Council and we are pleased to announce that Doreen’s Plaque will be going on the wall at the apartments where she lived for 30 years and the location where she did most of her seminal writing. The event will take place on the Summer solstice this year – i.e. 21st June 2013. We are having to pay for the commemorative plaque ourselves so we need your help to raise 1200 pounds. This is to cover 750 pounds manufacturing cost and the remainder is for the installation. Time is short so please donate to this great cause. This will be a number of firsts. The plaque as afar as we can find out will be the first council apartment block. It certainly will be the first plaque that celebrates the life of one of our own. There are plaques commemorating the wrong doings, but this is the first to honor a witch.”

You can donate towards the cause, here. Future planned plaques include one for Gerald Gardner in 2014, and one for Alex Sanders in 2015.

In Other Pagan Fundraising Initiatives News:

Those are the highlighted campaigns for this edition. Please send me word of your crowdfunding campaigns, and I may spotlight them on a future edition of this ongoing feature. Let’s all work together to promote important projects within our community, and destroy the notion that we can’t or won’t fund projects that are important to us. If you can’t donate, the best way to help is to share these campaigns to your social networks, exposing them to as many people as possible. Thanks for reading, and thank you for supporting Pagan community!